Taking that first step will often enable new opportunities and give life direction. That’s what I’ve learned as an IBMer, and it’s given me a community focus that has shaped my career.
Early in my career, IBM gave me a great opportunity to volunteer for Junior Achievement of Southern California, teaching business skills to high school students. Although I had done some volunteering in the community, the thought of teaching a high school class was rather intimidating. I wouldn’t have done it without the support of IBM and my colleagues who had participated, but I’m glad I did. Seeing how the students responded to someone from the business world was a real surprise to me. They all wanted to know what it takes to get a job at a company like IBM, and what it’s like to work here. It was a very rewarding experience that has had a lasting impact on me.
In recent articles in The Atlantic and The Huffington Post, I discuss the benefits of providing pro bono counsel to solve problems that intersect business, technology and society. IBM has been at the forefront of these efforts through our Corporate Service Corps and Smarter Cities Challenge initiatives. Since 2008, we have deployed more than 2,000 top-talent employees from 50 countries on more than 2,000 Corporate Service Corps assignments in 30 countries. Meanwhile, our Smarter Cities Challenge program is providing pro bono consulting services worth USD$50 million to 100 cities through 2013.
We’ve just announced the winning cities for the 2013 Smarter Cities Challenge, and are gathering the mayors of those cities and others – along with urban policy thought leaders and IBM experts – at the first Smarter Cities Summit. With more than half the world’s population living in cities, we depend on them for many of the essentials of life. But once we look across the boundaries of culture, geography and language, we begin to recognize that the challenges facing cities are universal.
Stanley S. Litow is IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs and President of the IBM International Foundation. The Civic 50 has just named IBM as America’s Number One most community-minded company.
The Civic 50 survey today named IBM America’s Number 1 most community-minded company. The survey is conducted by the National Conference on Citizenship and
Points of Light in partnership with Bloomberg, LP. It is the first comprehensive ranking of the S&P 500 corporations that best use their time, talent, and resources to improve the quality of life in the communities where they do business.
- Communities have their problems solved.
- IBMers receive leadership training and development.
- IBM develops new markets and global leaders.
Through CSC, our education initiatives, the Smarter Cities Challenge and other innovative programs, IBM interweaves citizenship and business strategy into an integrated approach to making the world a better place. We are honored to be recognized as the leader among companies that give of their time and expertise – not just their cash – in service to the greater good.
In my op-ed in today’s U.S. News & World Report, I write about the critical relationship between education and jobs, and why it is essential for the U.S. to commit to both supporting and innovating education. With unemployment stubbornly high while tens of thousands of good jobs are waiting to be filled, we need to ensure that our young people receive educations that are academically rigorous and economically relevant.
During a recent trip to the UK, IBM Chief Information Officer Jeanette Horan spoke with teenage students in the coastal town of Broadstairs. Recounting the path that took her
from a youngster with a passion for mathematics to a career in IT, Ms. Horan stressed
the importance of study and informed risk taking in building a successful career.
Not surprisingly, she made a strong case for the pursuit of careers related to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and why they are so in demand
and rewarding. Here are excerpts from Ms. Horan’s remarks:
My job provides me the opportunity to travel a lot. I’ve visited many countries and cities
of the world, but I still consider this area home.
I guess a love of math runs in my family. My sister is a math teacher, and it was my favorite subject, too. In fact, you could say she was my first teacher, as she would come home from school and teach me what she had learned that day.
While my math teachers were inspirational to me, there was another teacher who encouraged me to think more broadly and be open to new ideas. The encouragement I received from her helped me to build confidence in my own abilities. Math remained my favorite subject, but I was always interested in new ideas, exploring different concepts
and taking calculated risks.
Investing time in others was something my mother taught me would reap both personal and professional benefits. It wasn’t until after her death that I finally understood what it would mean for me as a woman.
My mother died from pancreatic cancer at the young age of 61. At her funeral, hundreds of women – from 25 all the way to 70 years old – came up to me and shared story upon story of how my mother had been a mentor to them. Person after person shared examples of how my mother had helped them graduate from college, establish their own businesses, get into other roles, or find new loves. They said how positive and encouraging my mother had been, and how the network of people she knew, including men, helped them immensely.
Getting involved in your community and mentoring is something most people value and plan to do later in life or their career. But after seeing my mother’s early passing, I realized that getting involved was not something to wait for. It was something to commit to and do right away.
On September 4th, 60 of us IBMers stepped out to take a little step towards making a better world. Our mission was to clean up the streets outside Anand Ashram, a quaint old-age home located next to our Subramanya Arcade IBM facility in Bangalore. This action stemmed out of a “Say No to Plastic” drive that we had initiated at the IBM India office a couple of days previously.
Some background to this effort: During IBM’s Centennial year, 30,000 IBMers in India went out and volunteered with different communities and non-government organizations (NGOs). One such effort involved the Centre for Sustainable Development, where about 100 volunteers went and surveyed different zones of Bangalore to determine the degradation we are causing to our environment by our daily living habits. A report based on this survey was brought out by the IBM Analytics Team.
The report was released in August of this year in the presence of several government dignitaries. I was part of this launch, where the Commissioner of the Bangalore Municipal Corporation challenged me by asking “Can you as IBM set an example by reducing the use of plastic in all your offices and surroundings?”
We took up this challenge and reduced the use of plastic in all of our offices. But beyond that, we really wanted to set an example by doing an activity so impactful that it would make people sit up and notice, and drive them to take their own steps towards creating a better environment. That’s how the “Spot Fixing” idea was born.
The motive behind the clean up was that “Ugliness attracts Ugliness.” Therefore, we believed that if we cleaned up the place, we would inspire others to help maintain the cleanliness of the area – and not litter it with plastic, paper and other trash.
We partnered with The Ugly Indian – a nonprofit that works with corporations to help promote a plastic-free environment – and 60 of us went out to clean a 200-meter stretch of unkempt street to demonstrate that resolve is all it takes to change the things around us.
Watch the video to see what we accomplished.
I leave you with a simple thought: Want to change the world? Start with yourself!
Amit Sharma is Chief Operation Officer IBM India South Asia.
We tend to think about education only when school is in session. But that tendency – just like our anachronistic, agrarian school calendar itself – is an example of the out-of-date thinking that is jeopardizing America’s competitiveness on the world stage. The truth is that “school” is (and ought to be) always in session – for industry, for educators, and for the young people on whose fortunes our economy will rise or fall. A vigorous and vital society never stops learning – even if that means using innovation to reinvent its educational institutions to make them more responsive to the demands of a global economy.
IBM has written the playbook for combining high school, college, and workplace learning to connect education to jobs by providing students with the skills they need to pursue 21st Century careers. Working with our partners from government and from all levels of education – kindergarten through college – we are helping students, teachers, parents and communities understand that the mid-20th Century standards of the post World War II era – a time when people could enter the economy and pursue lifelong careers with only a high school diploma – are no longer enough.
Beyond building understanding, we have taken direct action. More than 100 IBMers have volunteered their time and expertise to mentor the students, teachers, and administrators of New York’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH). Entering its second year as IBM enters its second century, P-TECH is achieving results that can only be realized when the public and private sectors work together to address challenges that no single entity can overcome alone. Some P-TECH students already are college-ready in key academic subjects, and will begin taking college courses as 10th graders this September. In fact, more than a dozen P-TECH students began college courses this summer after completing ninth grade.
But rolling out one school in one neighborhood – even an exemplary school – was never the final goal of this new educational paradigm. From the very start, IBM designed the P-TECH model to work in any city or community that’s ready to take action to prepare its young people for meaningful, good-paying careers, and to make its workforce attractive to growth industries. The mayor and City of Chicago get this message, and will open five new P-TECH-model schools this fall. IBM – and IBMers – will support and participate in one of the new schools, while additional corporate partners such as Motorola and Verizon will join in our fight to sustain and enhance the global competitiveness of America’s workforce.
The need to integrate academic work and career preparation has never been more urgent, but no single entity can do it alone. Now that collectively we have a proven recipe, the only remaining ingredient for positive change in our approach to education on the national level is our desire to succeed.
Stanley S. Litow is IBM’s Vice President of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Responsibility and President of the IBM International Foundation.
In this interview with Forbes, I discuss the long history of IBM’s public engagement, our philosophy for bringing about global social change, our key initiatives and priorities, how we measure success, collaborating across sectors, challenges to progress and much more.
In my latest article for The Huffington Post, I write that every day, a child is born to an urban family, joining the more than 50 percent of the world’s population that now lives in cities. But the challenges in cities are daunting. The quality of this child’s life – from the cleanliness of her food and water, to the safety of her streets, and the quality of her education – depends less on invention and innovation than on the effectiveness with which her city’s government leaders, community members, and area employers are able to work together.